Unpacking the Dangers of a False Dichotomy

If you work with a pediatric population or have a child with a diagnosed disability, you've undoubtedly heard this question before: "Is it sensory or is it behavioral?"

There are comprehensive continuing education courses dedicated to providing answers. Therapists of all disciplines spend hours "picking the brains of others" to determine exactly what category a child's observed target behaviors fit into (Escape? Attention? Access to a preferred tangible? None of those, huh? ? Maybe sensory then?), But I've learned something recently, it's the wrong question.



As a new occupational therapist with a background in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), I quickly wanted to make "sensory" a new function of behavior. I clearly assumed that any underlying sensory need of a client could be synonymous with "automatic reinforcing behavior." This made me feel good, as this was considered the most difficult area in the world of behavior modification. With both lenses, he was sure he could solve even the toughest cases, but it didn't work. The more I immersed myself in the sensory world (that which is internal and inherently difficult to observe and measure), the more confused I became.

"The goal of ANY sensory intervention is never to change a child's inherent preferences, but to adapt to them in a way that maximizes both quality of life and meaningful participation in occupations."

Case in point: let's call my friend "Charlotte." Charlotte has a history of plugging her ears, yelling, and running out of the classroom whenever she is presented with a task she finds difficult. The ABA therapist walks in, collects ABC (Antecedent-Behavior-Consequence) data, and determines that the behavior remains escaping. The occupational therapist then comes in, gives the child a sensory evaluation, and determines that Charlotte has some difficulty with modulation in the "auditory filtering" areas. During the observation, the occupational therapist notices that Charlotte's teacher gives particularly long explanatory verbal instructions. There is also a smoke detector that goes off and kids whisper in the pockets of the classroom. She determines that the escape behavior is "sensory" in nature. Which therapist is right?


Well ... aren't you both?

Here's the danger of the sensory versus behavioral question: It's too simple. It assumes a dichotomy between how a person processes sensory information in the brain and their observable and measurable behaviors. Thanks to MRI machines and other medical advances, we now know more about the brain than ever before. A tried and true rule in the world of neuroscience is this: sensory input equals motor output.

In simpler terms, our brains are rigorous data collectors. We are constantly providing information through the senses from our environment to our brain. Our brain then processes this information and (either consciously or unconsciously) uses that information to formulate a series of motor outputs (movements, or as I like to call them, BEHAVIORS). Behavior and sensory input go hand in hand like peas and carrots. We have to STOP treating them as sworn enemies, winners and losers. They are actually codependent best friends. Honestly, you can't unravel one and still have the full picture of the other.

Behavior and sensory input go hand in hand like peas and carrots.

We have to stop treating them as sworn enemies.

We can go on philosophizing for centuries about this new discovery. But we have children to raise and many cases to treat, and this is what we are really looking for: clinical implications. I'm talking about solution-based problem solving, and we've already determined that "Is it sensory or behavioral?" is the wrong question. So here's a less shameful alternative: "Is there a sensory intervention that serves as an effective preventive strategy for (insert your target behavior here)?" Because here's the bottom line: we all have individual sensory preferences. The goal of ANY sensory intervention is never to change the child's inherent preferences, but to accommodate them in a way that maximizes both quality of life and meaningful participation in occupations.

So to recap: here are some dos and don'ts when it comes to treating a child with unique behavioral and sensory needs (READ: EVERY CHILD):


Take a holistic approach, regardless of your particular disciple. Being able to see a child as a complete human being, through multiple lenses, is ultimately best for everyone.

Take data and expand your definition of antecedent to include what is happening in the environment (with particular attention to smells, sounds, demands for movement, positioning, etc.)

Get even more data on sensory interventions and their effectiveness. This is how we make evidence-based decisions about something that is inherently internal.

Be a team player. ABA is great. OT is great. Both are better.


Did you ever say "Is it sensory or is it behavior?"

Remember, best friends.

Aba therapy services Dubai

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a type of therapy that focuses on improving specific behaviors, such as communication, reading, and academics, as well as adaptive learning skills, such as dexterity (fine motor skills), hygiene, self-care, and independence, punctuality. and competence in assigned tasks. ABA therapy helps children and adults with psychological disorders in various settings, such as schools, workplaces, homes, and clinics. Consistent ABA has also been shown to significantly improve behaviors and skills and reduce dependency on special services.

Aba therapy services Dubai


ABA for people with autism

ABA is an effective therapeutic intervention for people with autism. ABA can help children with autism improve their social skills, learn new skills, and maintain positive behaviors and minimize negative behaviors that can negatively affect their quality of life.

ABA-based intervention has been shown to be effective in treating:

• Autism spectrum disorders
• Profound developmental disorders
• Learning difficulties
• Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
• Down's Syndrome
• Cerebral palsy
• PDD-NOS and more

The applied behavior analysis includes several components such as:

• Discreet test teaching
• Reinforcement strategies
• Boost and fade strategies
• Give shape and chain
• Data-driven programming for generalization
• Behavior reduction programs
• Skills acquisition programs


ABA services at Pulse Center
At Pulse Center, we provide ABA services under the direct supervision of our board certified behavior analysts and implemented by highly professional and qualified Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs). A Board Certified Behavior Analyst is an independent practitioner who provides behavior analysis services, supervision, and training to Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBA), Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT) and others who implement behavioral analytical interventions. conduct.


Our services include:


• Parent consultation / case management
Initial consultation and direct interview by board certified behavior analysts, ongoing supervision and case management by BCBA.

• Evaluations and intervention planning
Initial assessments (VB Mapp, ABLLS, PEAK, AFLS) to identify skill levels and develop an intervention plan.

• ABA 1: 1 therapy
Individualized ABA therapy / teaching provided by Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT) based on individual needs.

• Tahseen Day Enrichment Program
ABA intervention program for children 5 to 12 years old at Pulse Center supported by our multidisciplinary team of speech therapists, occupational therapists, ABA therapists and psychologists.

• Group social skills sessions provided by trained RBTs
It includes small group programs that focus on addressing the individual's social skills and play skills.

• School observation support by trained professionals
We provide self-trained learning support assistants to assist students in the school setting.






• ABA Foundation Training (KHDA approved)
KHDA approved 20-hour ABA hands-on training program for learning support assistants.

• Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) Training (KHDA approved)
40 hour training program provided by BCBA to qualify for the RBT exam offered by BACB.

• Mentoring from RBT, BCaBA and those seeking BCBA certification


The ABA Therapy process

An ABA therapist works with families and individuals who set goals for their child and achieve positive results. The process is the following:

Determine behaviors that require change.

Set goals and expected results

Establish ways to measure changes and improvements

Assess where you are now

Learn new skills and / or learn to avoid negative behaviors

Periodically review your progress

Decide whether or not additional behavior modification is necessary

The time you spend on ABA depends on the severity of the problem and the person's rate of improvement.